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"Hong Kong is an extremely important window and reference point for the quick development of all the luxury brands in China. No one could have imagined China to be what it is today. But HK will last for many years in the future ... “this is where the money is." (Giorgio Armani)

Domestic politics
No knives out for Tsang: Reports of an anti-Donald Tsang campaign in Beijing were put to rest when the HK chief executive paid a round of whirlwind visits to senior leaders. Not only was Tsang well received, most leaders were singing his praises and making pledges of support by the time he left. Tsang said that intelligent people could differentiate between truth and rumours.
No mainland city can take HK's place: No mainland city could take HK's place in the country's development, Beijing's top representative in the city said. Speaking at a meeting of HK delegates to the National People's Congress, Gao Siren, director of the central government's liaison office in HK, said the 11th five-year plan reiterated the central government's staunch support for HK's economic development.
HK deputies call for Basic Law's review: HK deputies to the National People's Congress have for the first time urged the NPC Standing Committee to review and amend the Basic Law. Victor Sit first proposed the motion when the committee's deputy secretary-general, Qiao Xiaoyang, met HK NPC and CPPCC delegates to hear their views. "Besides interpretation, the amendment of the Basic Law will be another practical way to stop current political conflicts," said Professor Sit. He added that many articles in HK's mini-constitution were in conflict with "current situations".
Economic pointer to HK democracy: The improvement in HK's economy and living standards will eventually lead to a democratic political system in the SAR, Premier Wen Jiabao said. Speaking at the end of the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, Wen said that nearly nine years after HK's return to the motherland, the capitalist and legal systems remain unchanged and that the freedom and rights of HK people are guaranteed.
Beijing boosts Tsang's popularity: Chief Executive Donald Tsang's popularity has risen to a four-month high, apparently thanks to the show of support from central government leaders responding to a rumoured anti-Tsang campaign waged by the pro-Beijing camp.
Beijing will not see us as enemy, says Civic Party: The Civic Party, which was officially launched, has voiced confidence that Beijing will not treat it as an enemy. Members vowed to foster healthy dialogue with the central authorities while working with different sectors to fight for democracy and social justice in HK. Comprising lawmakers of the Article 45 Concern Group, the party was launched with legislator Audrey Eu named as leader.
Li pledges his support for Tsang's re-election: Li Ka-shing, HK's most powerful and richest businessman, has pledged his support for Chief Executive Donald Tsang to seek re-election next year, and praised Tsang as an outstanding leader in tackling complicated issues.
Democracy talks stall on capitalism: A discussion by members of a high-level government think-tank on a road map or timeline for full democracy turned into a debate on whether democracy would harm the city's capitalist way of life. Pro-democracy panellists accused the government of finding an excuse to hold back the universal suffrage promised in the Basic Law. But those from the business sector and the leftist camp argued that adopting universal suffrage hastily could turn HK into a welfare state because elected politicians would need to please voters with handouts.

Relations China-HK
Closer integration on way for: Premier Wen Jiabao's latest remarks strongly suggest that Beijing will continue to boost economic integration between the mainland and HK. Now it's up to the SAR government to take advantage of that, especially in negotiations over the next phase of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement which is largely focused on services-related trades. At his annual press conference after the closing of the annual session of the NPC Tuesday, Wen was effusive about HK, praising its "irreplaceable" contributions to the mainland's economic reforms and describing it as "the freest and most open economy in the world."

International affairs
Zen verdict sidestepped: The foreign minister gave an oblique answer when asked whether Joseph Zen's elevation to cardinal would affect Sino-Vatican relations. Li Zhaoxing replied that the central government was pleased to see achievements by people in HK. However, he warned the Vatican against interfering in China's internal affairs, saying the Holy See must sever ties with Taiwan.
Change mind-set, Zen urges Beijing: Newly appointed Cardinal Joseph Zen has wasted no time wading deep into the sensitive issues of religious freedom and Taiwanese sovereignty, using the first full day after his return to Hong Kong to call on Beijing to change its attitude towards the Vatican. Zen said the central government will have to guarantee real religious freedom before the Vatican will consider transferring its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Transborder affairs
Uncertainty over cost, timetable of new bridge: A difference has emerged over the cost and timetable for a bridge linking HK with Macau and Zhuhai. The Guangdong authorities had not set a timetable and price tag for the project, the province's executive vice-governor Tang Bingquan said. His remarks marked an apparent deviation from those of Guangdong Development and Reform Commission director-general Chen Shanru, who said that the provincial authorities were hoping to begin work on the bridge next year.
Guangzhou urges HK, Macau to 'join hands': Guangzhou party Chief Lin Shusen has invited HK and Macau to get on board and help it to promote growth over the next five years. "There is no progress without competition. Competition is good for all three areas. We should join hands to compete globally".
We've much to learn from HK, says Shenzhen mayor: Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng has hailed HK as "unique and irreplaceable" and pledged his government would continue to play second fiddle to the special administrative region. Speaking at the close of the Shenzhen People's Congress, the mayor said no mainland city could compete with HK in terms of economic sophistication, government efficiency, openness and the rule of law. He said Shenzhen's goal to become an international hi-tech, logistics and regional financial centre was not in conflict with HK's interests as the two sides could complement each other.

Legal affairs and human rights
UN rights body “too far away to understand HK”: The UN human rights watchdog may not fully understand the situation in HK because it is situated overseas, the home affairs minister said. Patrick Ho made the remark in response to lawmakers' criticism of the government's reservations about introducing universal suffrage and other recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Committee over the years.
Activists will urge UN to push for full democracy: Human rights activists will urge the UN to press the HK government to introduce full democracy at a hearing of the international body's human rights commission this month. They say they will also call on the commission to ask Beijing to stop interfering in HK affairs by means of "reinterpretation of the Basic Law".
HK poll system breaches UN treaty: The United Nations Human Rights Committee said HK's electoral arrangements breach an international rights treaty, and called its reservations to a treaty clause calling for universal and equal suffrage a "dead letter". This is the second time committee members have struck down the government's argument that the paragraph on universal suffrage in article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does not apply to the city. However, it is the first time they have reached the judgment in relation to the post-handover electoral arrangements, including those for functional constituencies and the chief executive.
Falun Gong documents 'too sensitive': Documents concerning how four Falun Gong practitioners were placed on a Department of Immigration watch list are too sensitive for open court, Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan has decreed. Mr Hui said the release of the documents covered by a court order issued by Mr Justice Michael Hartmann, who is hearing a judicial review brought by the four practitioners in the Court of First Instance, was not in the public interest.
Report slams SAR on human rights: The United States Department of State has blasted the HK government for failing to uphold the civil liberties of its seven million people in its annual human rights report. The report generally approves of HK's political system, but pointed to four prominent breaches of human rights. "The following human rights problems were reported: limitations on residents' ability to change their government and limitations on the power of the legislature to affect government policies," reads the report.

Steady home price rises tipped: In contrast to last year's bumpy ride, property prices will rise steadily this year, supported by continuing economic growth and increasing numbers of new families, industry figures predict.
Tang: New tax vital to fiscal health: Financial Secretary Henry Tang showed the courage of his convictions when he took his Goods and Services Tax message to one place he was most likely to find the strongest objection. Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the HK General Chamber of Commerce, Tang said there is a clear need to introduce new revenue sources like the GST so as to install a stable component into the SAR government's less-than-healthy fiscal structure.
Wen in rare focus on SAR: HK will maintain its position as China's international centre of finance and trade after Beijing referred to the city's development in its five-year plan for the first time in 53 years. Beijing will support HK's efforts in developing finance, shipping, trade and tourism, while cooperating with it on infrastructure, resources and environmental protection, said Premier Wen Jiabao.
Talk of Shanghai crowd-pleasing eases hub fears: There are signs the central government may step up coordination and see to it that HK's status as an international hub in finance, trade and shipping will not be shaken as rivalry from other key mainland cities, especially Shanghai, intensifies. Beijing "used to talk about turning Shanghai into an international hub for finance, trade and shipping" some time ago, said Wu Bangguo, China's No 2 leader. "But such talk was propaganda aimed at pleasing the mainland audience," added Wu, chairman of the National People's Congress' Standing Committee.
HK's got it all, says China-wide survey of competitiveness: HK is clearly China's most competitive city, according to an official mainland think-tank. But the city shouldn't rest on its laurels as it also suffers relatively low economic growth and has a corporate culture that is not conducive to technological innovation, an academic involved in the study says. In its annual report on urban competitiveness for 2005, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences put HK at the top of its list of 200 cities. "Although mainland cities such as Shanghai and Beijing are maintaining a rapid pace of development, it will be some time before they can overtake HK," said the academy, which considered such factors as the quality of human resources and companies, as well as regulatory environment.
Tang's budget under attack on two fronts: The financial secretary has come under fire from across the political spectrum for failing to strengthen the economy and help the needy in his budget. Lawmakers accused Mr Tang of spending only $100 million more to help the needy, while the budget surplus by January had reached $19.6 billion, five times his estimate of $4.1 billion for the entire financial year. Others said Mr Tang lacked the vision to boost innovation and competitiveness, following a warning on Monday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in its annual report that the city had a corporate culture not conducive to technological innovation.
Joseph Yam urges stronger financial role for HK: HK must strengthen its role as a financial intermediary with the mainland to avoid being marginalised and maintain its status as an international financial centre, HK Monetary Authority chief executive Yam warned. "As the mainland has quickened reform on its financial system, HK - as a middleman between mainland and overseas funds - could be marginalised," Mr Yam said at the Pan-Pearl River Delta Financial Services Forum.
Frederick Ma reveals funds boom: Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Ma expects HK's fund industry to double its size in five years as more fund houses use the SAR as a platform for investing in mainland stocks. Ma is very optimistic that high growth rates can be sustained since overseas investors are committing more of their savings to the Asian markets, especially China.
Property fears grow: Prolonged interest rate hikes could further damage the local property market after the latest quarter percentage point increase by the US Federal Reserve Bank, the HK Monetary Authority has warned. Matching the United States, HK banks raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point, retaining the current two-tier system.
Expo industry shows up challenges: Despite recent efforts by AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) management to improve its facilities, the local exhibition sector fears that the industry is still facing serious challenges, such as a shortage of hotel rooms for trade-fair participants and visitors. Industry representatives are also worried that with poor government support, HK's strengths could be matched by other Asian economies in a rush to expand trade-fair facilities.

Hospital Authority starts surveillance programme: The Hospital Authority and all 12 private hospitals in HK have been placed on full alert for bird flu. The authority also announced the launch of a three-week enhanced surveillance programme. Under the programme, public hospitals have to report to the authority's e-Flu system if a patient shows symptoms of bird flu, has been in contact with birds or recently travelled to an area deemed high-risk.
Finally, a deadline for ban on live chicken sales – 2009: Live chickens will be banned from HK's wet markets by 2009, more than 10 years after the idea was first flagged, a senior government source revealed. The source said the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau would next month present the Legislative Council with a timetable to phase out the sale of live chickens, to coincide with the plan for setting up a central slaughterhouse in the northwest New Territories.
Property sector will be hit by smoking ban, says agency: Property became the latest industry to claim it would be dealt a severe blow by the government's proposed smoking ban. An executive of one of the city's biggest estate agencies said property prices could plummet as bars and restaurants lost business and closed because of the ban. But the chief of another big agency disagreed, saying entertainment venues were facing intense competition from Macau and the mainland and were using the looming smoking ban as an excuse to shut down.

Air pollution puts tourism in jeopardy, poll reveals: Environmental activists said HK's multi-billion dollar tourism industry is at risk after a survey found half the visitors to the city had complained of the worsening air pollution.
Pollution link to surge in breathing problems: The number of elderly people complaining of respiratory problems has risen six-fold in 12 years, a survey has found, with experts saying pollution is a significant factor contributing to the rise. A team of respiratory experts has urged the government to quickly implement a total smoking ban in HK to improve air quality. They also blamed emissions from vehicles and power plants as well as pollutants from the Pearl River Delta for the deteriorating respiratory condition of people in the city.
SAR climbs the pollution ranks: The bad news - HK is one of the world's most polluted cities. The not-so-new news - most of the pollutants are wafting across the border from the mainland. That is the preliminary verdict of a group of HK Polytechnic University scientists at the official launch of the university's 10-year air pollution monitoring partnership program in conjunction with the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Grim picture on emission controls: Green groups have warned a meeting of the Legislative Council environmental affairs panel that HK's power companies still have a long way to go towards meeting a 2010 target of reducing air pollutants. Bill Barron, a senior research fellow with think-tank Civic Exchange, said local power companies should follow the example of their US counterparts and establish energy service companies to help educate the public on the greater use of energy-efficient home appliances. He added that carbon taxes should be introduced for the use of "dirty" fuels like coal.
Power exports add to HK pollution: The lucrative business of exporting electricity to Guangdong is responsible for up to 12 per cent of pollutants in HK, the environment chief revealed. Sarah Liao also told the Legislative Council that emissions in HK would drop "immediately" if CLP Power ceases its exports to the mainland.

Press articles related to Switzerland
Swiss giant signs crucial Huaxin deal (The Standard, 8 March 2006): Holcim, the world's second-largest cement manufacturer, is set to become the first foreign investor to control a mainland-listed company as China opens its doors for overseas institutions seeking to invest in yuan-denominated stocks. Switzerland-based Holcim, which entered the Chinese market by delivering technical know-how to mainland counterparts 20 years ago, has signed an agreement to increase its holding in cement-maker Huaxin Cement to 50.3%.
China movement the new thing in watches (SCMP, 22 March 2006): (…) Chinas imports of Swiss watches - mostly luxury watches - have jumped by 78.1% to 351.3 million Swiss francs last year from 197.2 million francs in 2003, while HK's imports grew 24.5 per cent to 1.77 billion francs last year from 1.42 billion francs in 2003, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Together, HK and the mainland are the world's biggest importer of Swiss watches. It is estimated that 70 per cent of HK's imported Swiss watches are sold to mainland Chinese, said Tommy Leung, managing director of Peace Mark (Holdings), a HK-listed watch company.
Swatch eyes stronger gains after boost from luxury end (SCMP, 24 March 2006): Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group reported a 21% rise in last year's net profit, slightly below the average expectation, but the group said it had seen a promising start to this year and raised its dividend. The maker of Omega, Breguet and Blancpain watches said a strong performance at its watch and jewellery segment boosted net profit to 621 million Swiss francs ($3.86 billion) last year. Like its rivals, Swatch has benefited from a strong rise in demand for expensive luxury watches.


This is a review of the Hong Kong media and does not necessarly represent the opinion of the Consulate General of Switzerland. The Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong does not bear any responsibility for the topicality, correctness, completeness or quality of the information provided. Liability claims regarding damage caused by the use of any information provided, including any kind of information which might be incomplete or incorrect, will therefore be rejected.


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